Reverse dieting is exactly how it sounds. Instead of lowering your calorie intake, you are increasing it overtime.
But, where normal dieting’s goal is to lose weight, the goal with a reverse diet is not to gain weight. The goal is to increase your metabolism while maintaining your physique.
Who should reverse diet?
Anyone who has been eating in a deficit can benefit from a reverse diet.
Also, anyone who *thinks* their maintenance calories are miserably low can reverse diet.
I include the second scenario because that was me. I thought my maintenance calories were around 13-1400. I thought if I ate above that I would gain weight and I would. I couldn’t even fathom eating more.
And the thing is, I technically was maintaining on those calories, but it was because my NEAT had decreased to acclimate to the low calories.
Can’t I just jump up to maintenance calories after a deficit?
Totally. You totally can.
The problem is that most people have been in a deficit for a long enough time for your body to adapt to it’s new calorie intake. This means that while you may not of even realized a change, your BMR decreased. So, your body is just not burning as much per day as it used to.
Jumping straight to maintenance can make it so that you gain weight because you will probably overestimate your maintenance calories.
Sure, overtime your body will probably adapt to that new higher intake as well, but before it does, those excess calories will cause you to gain a small amount of weight.
So, how does reverse dieting work?
Basically you just increase your calories slowly over time. How long it takes depends on how much you need to raise your calories to get to your new maintenance. The bigger the deficit, the longer it will take.
There are a couple approaches to this. Some increase their calories weekly, and some monthly. There is no wrong answer here, it really just comes down to preference.
I personally raise my calories by about 80 every week. If you choose to raise your calories less often, then typically that increase is a little higher, maybe around 150 calories every 2-4 weeks.
Where do those calories come from?
Most of those calories will come from carbs.
The reason is because your protein & fat goals are calculated based on your weight, which should not be changing much. Your filler calories always come from carbs.
How long should I do this for?
Basically, your reverse diet is over when you start gaining weight. Once you hit that point you know you went slightly past your maintenance calories.
So for example, say I’m increasing my calories weekly and I’m doing great at 2,000 calories but then the following week, I up it to 2080 and I notice the scale starts to increase. At this point, I revert back to 2,000 and stay there because I know that 2,080 is too high.
What to expect:
Expect the scale to go up every time you increase your macros.
The thing is, you’re mainly increasing your carb intake. Carbs retain water. This means that initially you will gain water weight until your body adjusts to your new higher carb numbers.
From my experience, that extra bloat only lasted a couple days after raising my carbs. By, the end of the week that water weight had fallen off and I was able to see that it wasn’t real weight gain & I could increase my calories further.
Expect this to seem a little tedious.
Raising your carbs by 80 calories is only 20 extra carbs a week. That’s not even a slice of toast. Even if you go the other route and increase every 2-4 weeks, it’s still not a huge increase.
It takes time, but it works.
I went from around 1300 calories to about 2000 calories to maintain my weight. That took several months of precise tracking, but it was worth it. I have so much more flexibility in my diet and I am happier because of it.
Plus, I have more energy to power through harder workouts.
Don’t expect dramatic results.
Okay, if you follow any fitness guru on social media you will notice they will sometimes talk about the ridiculous amount of calories they eat in a day.
I follow women who are my same height and weight and somehow can maintain their weight on over 3,000 calories while I only take in 2,000.
Can their numbers be achieved? Yes, but it would take a long time.
These are people who have dedicated years to fitness. They have built up a lot of mature muscle and are very active throughout their day.
Someone who is very lean at 130 will need more calories than someone with a higher body fat percentage at that same weight.
Reverse dieting can be frustrating because it takes time to work but it is so worth it. If you were ever like me and thought you couldn’t even eat a single cookie without gaining 5 pounds, then I definitely think this diet strategy is worth a shot!